Greg Shannon, Staff
“Shang -Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” is the latest in Marvel Studios’ long and complicated line of film adaptations from their comic book series. Directed by Daniel Dustin Creaton, the movie is a nice breath of fresh air from the intergalactic evil space men that we’ve grown accustomed to. With a great cast of Chinese and Chinese-American actors like Simu Liu, Tony Leung Chiu-wai (“In the Mood for Love,” “Hero,”) and Michelle Yeoh (“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,”) and amazing fight scenes, this film has a chance to stand out from the other superhero films that the studio has put out. With that said, here are my thoughts on the latest Marvel movie, Shang-Chi.
When it comes to the plot, this film is definitely paced well. Everything revealed helps to progress the story, and there isn’t really a moment that is unimportant. The film follows a standalone, unique story in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) that introduces audiences to a Chinese organized crime ring known as the Ten Rings, led by Xu Wenwu, played by Chiu-wai. Wenwu came into possession of an ancient artifact — ten rings which can be worn as bracelets and easily sent out with the power of a bullet and recalled to the wrist quickly. He uses these ten rings and his group of men to change the course of history. The film follows his conquest, as well as his son, Xu Shang-chi, played by Liu, who eventually rebels against his father. The story is thematically unique, blends modern day with ancient times seamlessly and leans heavily into its Chinese mythology roots.
Of course, with it being a Marvel Studios film, there are a good amount of fun easter eggs placed in this movie, most of them in the form of characters like the agents from “Black Widow,” one of the glowy explody people, also known as “Extremi Soldiers,” from “Iron Man 3,” The Abomination from “The Incredible Hulk (2008),” and lastly Wong from “Dr. Strange.”
The only downside, however, is that the opening to the film is a bit slow. Before the first big and epic fight scene, they give us a backstory and a bit of character development for Shang-chi, his family and his friend Katy played by Awkwafina (“Nora From Queens,” “Crazy Rich Asians”). While it was all important to the story, it just felt slow. There were some cool moments, like how the titular character’s parents met, but compared to the rest of the film it seems dull and falls flat. The opening notwithstanding, once the action starts in this film, it simply doesn’t stop.
All of the characters in “Shang-chi” are performed by an extremely well picked cast of Asian and Asian-American actors. With the exception of a few minor side characters, like the main henchman known as “Razor Fist,” this cast was pretty much entirely composed of Asain actors. It felt like the actors and actresses had really good chemistry together, especially Liu and Awkwafina. I think it was smart for the writers to avoid the introduction of romance between the two, as they felt natural together as just really good friends. Also the chemistry that they had with each fight really helped give it more life. Almost every actor in the movie felt right for the role, even some of the lesser-known celebrities in the cast.
The comedy in this movie was honestly pretty hit or miss most times. Most of the comedic lines were given to Awkwafina’s character, Katy, but the rest was divided up by some of the more minor characters. This would have been fine, but I found Akwafina’s comedic timing to be off and obnoxious at times. I don’t know if it was written that way in the script or they just told her to go ahead and wing it, but some jokes were just at the wrong moments.. There were parts of the movie that were serious and drew me in, only to be sidelined with a random “Hell naw” from Awkwafina’s character. The unnecessary amount of comedy was my biggest gripe of the movie.
The best part of the movie is the fight choreography. Each time there’s a fight it’s fun, fast paced and just great to look at. Now while you won’t get your “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” fix from “Shang-chi,” you do get some cool fighting effects, like how the ten rings are used and the supernatural martial arts style of fighting used by some of the main characters. All of the chemistry between the actors during the fights make it feel fluent and nice to look at. I especially enjoyed watching the main character, Shang-chi, fight. It looks and feels realistic at times and helps make watching it a lot more enjoyable. The fight scenes in this movie were definitely the highlights of the film for me and I hope they keep it up in future installments.
This movie is definitely one of the best that Marvel has put out. Once again, it is a breath of fresh air compared to their other projects and is filled with a bunch of fast paced fun fight scenes. I would definitely recommend this movie to Marvel fans or people that are looking for something different from the MCU. All in all I would give this movie a solid 8.5 out of 10.